The Scrapbook has been reading, with great interest and profit, not one but two stellar recent publications of that stellar journal, National Affairs.
The first is the Spring 2012 issue. It features excellent pieces by frequent WEEKLY STANDARD contributors like James Capretta (with Robert Moffit) on “How to Replace Obamacare,” Adam White on independent federal agencies, and Peter Wehner (with Robert Beschel) on “How to Think about Inequality.” We were particularly struck by our staff writer Jay Cost’s essay on “The Politics of Loss,” emphasizing and explaining, in a big historical frame, the particular need for the GOP in 2012 to have a serious and comprehensive economic growth message. And then there’s George Weigel on “The Handwriting on the Wall,” using Pope Leo XIII’s “acute analysis of political modernity” as a guide to the crisis of our time—an unusually thought-provoking essay.
And next to that issue on our desk is a new compendium of essays from National Affairs, edited by Yuval Levin and Meghan Clyne. A Time for Governing is a sort of “best of” collection from the journal’s first three years, reprinting 18 essays focused on guiding us towards solutions to key policy problems. We enjoyed especially rereading Yuval Levin on the welfare state and Jim Manzi on “Keeping America’s Edge.” If Mitt Romney has room for only one book and one journal in his carry-on, this is the book, and this is the quarterly, for him to have at hand. (Along with the latest WEEKLY STANDARD, of course!) With these, he’ll have what he needs to read—and to win.
Several of our favorite journals showed up recently in The Scrapbook’s mailbox (no, The Scrapbook hasn’t fully converted to the digital era yet), and they seemed to be even more chock-a-block than usual with interesting articles.
You've reread the Declaration of Independence. You've once again enjoyed Jefferson's extraordinary 50th anniversary letter of June 24, 1826, addressed to Roger Weightman. But you're up for still more reading this weekend, and you think you wouldn't mind something that deals seriously—but also in a lively way—with the current problems of the nation founded by the Declaration 235 years ago. After all, the Declaration itself, by submitting facts to a candid world in order to justify the claim of independence, implies that self-government depends on argument and reflection, not just willful or arbitrary choice.
The Scrapbook is pleased to doff its homburg to the estimable Claremont Review of Books. The Tenth Anniversary issue just landed on our cluttered desk—with a bit of a thud, actually, since it’s a hefty double issue, running 118 pages. But a very high quality thud—it’s an astonishingly compelling assortment.
The economic recovery, to the extent there’s been one, has stalled. Unemployment remains stubbornly above 9 percent and may go higher. The housing crisis endures. What is President Obama’s remedy? More jobless benefits, more money for governors to pay Medicaid bills, more funds for teachers and state and local government jobs. In other words, more of the same.
Yesterday the Senate voted 85-13 for John McCain's anti-VAT resolution. The lack of any substantial support for a VAT in the Senate would suggest that, even if the president's fiscal commission recommends such a tax when it reports in December, Ross Douthat is right and the chances a VAT will be imposed prior to the fiscal crisis are small. Whew.
Financial markets are necessary because they put people in need of money in touch with people who have money to lend. This is the essence of capitalism. Somewhere along the line, however, our financial system went out of whack.
There were many causes. Americans were saving too little, and the Chinese were saving too much. The Federal Reserve kept interest rates too low for too long in the middle of the decade, creating a surplus of credit that went into risky investments. The housing sector ballooned out of control. A "shadow banking" system came into being that leveraged huge amounts of money with absolutely no oversight. The ratings agencies said risky mortgage backed securities were A-OK. Market agents responded to regulations by seeking out loopholes, capturing the regulatory institutions, or following the rules and creating unintended (and not always positive) consequences. The result was the financial crisis that began to unfurl in 2007 and came to a head with the collapse of Lehman Brothers in September 2008.